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UK elections watchdog says new voter ID law stopped thousands from casting ballots

LONDON (AP) — Britain’s electoral watchdog said Friday that about 14,000 people were prevented from voting in last month’s local elections because of a new law requiring voters to show photo identification.

The Electoral Commission said 0.25% of people who went to polling stations were unable to cast ballots because they didn’t have the right ID, and “significantly more” than that likely did not show up at all.

Craig Westwood, the commission’s communications director, said there was “concerning” evidence that disabled and unemployed people were more likely than other groups to give a reason related to ID for not voting.

“We don’t want to see a single voter lose the opportunity to have their say,” he said. “We are working to understand the challenges people faced, and will make recommendations that, with the engagement of government and wider electoral community, will support the participation of all voters.”

The government says ID is required to vote in many democracies, and the move will help prevent voter fraud. Critics say there is little evidence electoral fraud is a problem in Britain.

Opposition parties accused the Conservative government of trying to suppress the votes of those less likely to support the ruling party.

Acceptable forms of ID include passports, driver’s licenses and senior citizens’ travelcards – but not transit passes for young people.

The government says getting an older person’s travelcard requires proof of age, unlike other transit passes. But the discrepancy has brought allegations the change will disproportionately prevent young people – the group least likely to support the Conservatives – from voting. Poor people are also less likely to have photo ID than the more affluent.

The Electoral Reform Society, which opposes the new rules, said the government should “scrap this ill-thought-through and unnecessary scheme” before the next national election, due by the end of 2024.

The Conservatives took a hammering in the May 4 elections as voters expressed frustration at a cost-of-living crisis driven by decades-high inflation.

The Associated Press

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